The fierce debate that is being waged in the Church about whether Pope Francis enabled a wayward cardinal to continue to be part of church life has less to do about specific instances and more to do with the direction that the Church is heading. There is all-out war going on in ecclesiastical ranks between liberals who love where Pope Francis is taking the Church and conservatives who consider his thinking to be anathema.
Bishops are taking sides about whether Pope Francis is the right man to fill the Fisherman’s shoes at this time. When an Archbishop says that the call for the Pope to resign should be taken seriously, it’s code for dissatisfaction with the Holy Father.
On the other hand, many bishops’ conference, especially in Latin America, are lining up squarely behind Francis.
In a letter on the Argentine bishops’ news site, the episcopal conference said it was a response to “ruthless” attacks against the pontiff. The letter expressed “fraternal and filial” closeness to the Pope.
Spain’s episcopal conference told the pope, “Holy Father, you are not alone.” Peru’s bishops called recent actions “attempts to destabilize the church,” and they expressed support for the courageous and firm manner the Pope has shown in navigating “Christ’s boat,” the Church.
Pope Francis has wisely refused to jump into the fray of a debate in the media. “With people lacking goodwill, with people who seek only scandal, with those who look only for division, who want only destruction,” he said, the best response is “silence. And prayer.”
The Gospel of this Monday’s Mass recounts the fury of the townspeople when Jesus refused to perform miracles for them: “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.”
Pope Francis said the reading should help Christians “reflect on how to act in daily life when there are misunderstandings,” but also to understand “how the father of lies, the accuser, the devil acts to destroy the unity of a family, of a people.”
As Catholics, we believe that the Holy Spirit is alive in the daily work of the Church, and that includes among the magisterium. When Francis was chosen to lead the Church, we saw the hand of God at work. Bishops and others who would topple the current Pope should take more time to reflect on what they are saying.
The Bishops are the descendants of the Apostles. They would do better to stand with Peter rather than to try to run him out of town.